Harvest Employees: A Quick Guide

Managing seasonal staff over harvest can be a challenge for farming businesses. In the current market, it is crucial to capitalise on the full potential of your seasonal staff, so they perform well and are encouraged to return in the future.

ProcessWorx has helped numerous Farms set up processes and systems to streamline the recruitment, induction and retention of seasonal workers. We recommend taking the following steps.

Assess Need

Determine how many staff you need for seasonal periods like harvest and consider the level of experience and skills required for the job. Developing a position description can help with this. Consider if the job needs to be done part-time, full time, casual or could be done by a contractor.

Budget

Determine your budget for staff. Factor in the full cost of employing staff including;

  • Remuneration – If you are paying a flat rate you need to ensure the rate of pay takes into account all aspects of the Award. This is called a Better Off Overall Test (BOOT).
  • Accommodation – ensure you have adequate, safe accommodation for your staff. Consider if you will be providing accommodation as a condition of employment, charging rent, providing meals etc.
  • Recruitment – consider the cost of recruiting for workers through paid advertising or engaging a recruitment agency.
Documentation

Prepare the correct paperwork for new employees including

  • An employment contract which outlines the rights and obligations of the employee and employer. Having a written employment contract allows you to detail the terms and conditions of employment e.g. accommodation, keep and hours of work.
  • An Individual Flexibility Agreement (IFA) which is a written agreement between an employee and their employer used to change the effect of clauses in their Award.
  • The Fair Work Information Sheet which contains important information about employees’ rights and the National Employment Standards.
  • The Casual Employment Information Sheet which outlines the definition of a casual employee and rights to casual conversion.
  • A New Employee Checklist that should be completed before and on the employees first day. This can include, preparing the above paperwork, asking employees to complete online induction, arranging accommodation, making arrangements for uniforms of PPE and collecting forms, licenses and certificates from the employee.
  • An Induction Checklist is crucial. On the first day go over rules of the farm including, safety, HR and accommodation elements e.g. performance expectations, policies and procedures, incident reporting, and emergency management.
Safety

Farms need to meet their work health and safety obligations for new staff. Ensure staff are inducted and trained to use equipment safely for their role. Make sure to document the process and record any necessary licenses. Communicate the risks of farm work to employees and hold staff meetings to cover hazards or incidents, safety processes and allow employees to give feedback. Having a fatigue management plan for harvest is also highly recommended.

Manage staff if issues arise

If you find yourself in a difficult situation where seasonal workers are not meeting expectations, the first thing you can do is have a conversation with the employee. Talk to them about your concerns and document the conversation (e.g., a diary note recording what was discussed).

If the issue persists or is more serious, write a letter of allegation and invite the employee to a meeting to discuss the allegations. In the meeting express your concerns and give the employee an opportunity to respond. Go away and consider their response and organise an outcome meeting at a later date.  Potential outcomes could be, no action, the employee is given a warning or termination. Be aware there are risks when terminating, so contact ProcessWorx for advice if you are considering this.

Overview

Doing your best to induct new staff and set clear expectations will minimise the likelihood of staff difficulties. However, if issues arise don’t be afraid to manage your employees. At ProcessWorx we understand this process can be difficult and offer support for farmers.

ProcessWorx has extensive experience working with farms to ensure they meet their HR and Safety obligations. Farmers can have peace of mind that a team of experts is helping their business, so you can focus on farming. If you have queries about anything above and want advice personalised to your business, contact us on (08) 9316 9896, or email enquiries@processworx.com.au

Follow ProcessWorx on LinkedInFacebookInstagramYouTube, and Twitter to keep up with the latest HR and Safety news.

Written by Danielle McNamee

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